Week in Review – Fight the Temptation!

In many ways the second week of my post-marathon recovery is the hardest. I know I need that time to make sure my body is fully ready to return to running, but at the same time everything feels ok and I start getting a bit itchy to get out there again – not helped by it being both the Boston and London marathons this week! Being back at work meant everything else felt “normal” so not having all my usual training made things seem a bit odd. It was a week of fighting the temptation for the greater good! I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share a roundup of my recovery week.

Having spent last week limiting myself to nothing more strenuous than walking and yoga, this week I began to reintroduce my usual training rhythm by including some light cross training. Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – swim
Tuesdaygentle cycle walk
Wednesday – walk gentle cycle
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – walk
Saturday – Parkrun volunteer plus afternoon walk
Sunday – walk (after watching the London Marathon!)

Monday was the first day of term which is always a bit of a shock. These days I fall into “holiday mode” quite quickly and get so bound up in my “real life” that it can be a bit of a wrench to be back in the classroom. I was at least cheered by my calendar – even Gary Barlow is getting into the marathon spirit this month!

IMG_1511Since I would normally swim on a Monday, going for a swim after work helped to remind me of my own routine. It was nice to be back in the water, and despite a gap of a couple of weeks since my last swim, I felt I swam quite well. I took it nice and easy since this was technically a recovery workout and although I felt a little more tired than usual at the end, I knew that was the after effects of the marathon and length of time since my last swim so nothing to worry about.

However Monday may have been a bit much for me as I awoke on Tuesday with a scratchy throat and aches that didn’t lift all day. My eyes felt heavy and I didn’t feel like doing anything more than going to my bed. Since Tuesdays had previously been bike intervals, I had planned a gentle half hour cycle to get my legs turning over again, but decided instead to just have a walk in the fresh air then relax at home with some hot food and a nice bath before an early night. One thing that did cheer me up was the arrival of my April challenge medal from Virtual Runner. I had entered a cumulative challenge involving running the marathon distance across the month. I, of course, had decided it would be fun to do the whole thing in one go haha!

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IMG_1513By Wednesday the aches had gone but my throat remained scratchy first thing in the morning for the rest of the week. This meant I felt well enough for the cycle I had missed the day before. It felt good to get my heart rate up a little again, and I enjoyed sitting in the hot tub and steam room afterwards. On this day I was also cheered by the replacements for my end of term “casualties”:

IMG_1514I’ve not yet made a return to my PT sessions so Thursday was simply my Ashtanga yoga class. It was another great class for me and I could feel my legs becoming even more “my own” with every posture. I left feeling relaxed and better than I had done all week.

Ordinarily Friday is my rest day, however I’ve not exactly been over-exerting myself lately! The weather was nice when I got home so I went for a walk for 20 minutes or so to enjoy the extra daylight then waited for Steve to arrive home so we could head out to eat. After returning to work and fighting off what was likely a bug, I was more than ready for my Friday night beer and curry!

IMG_1519Saturday is parkrunday but my two weeks off running were not quite up yet so I was on the volunteer roster once more. This week I was on finish tokens which meant I had to check through them before the run started, but was held up in traffic, so enjoyed a bonus run from the car to get to the start! It felt really good to be running, albeit briefly, and I would have loved a bit more, but at least I know that the enjoyment will be there next week when I do run again.

IMG_1521Since Steve was away at a race further north and Hatha yoga hasn’t restarted yet, I decided to head out in the afternoon for a walk. I had a few errands but didn’t need to go into town so instead walked to the retail park, got a coffee then picked up the bits and pieces I needed before taking a different route home. I was probably out for a couple of hours but it was still a productive day.

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Sunday was London Marathon day and since it was also my last day “off” when it came to running, I had grand plans for a morning on the sofa watching the coverage. I love watching all the races from the elite to the runners in crazy costumes. It’s so inspiring and always makes me want to run another marathon! I spent the whole weekend feeling rather envious of those in London soaking up the atmosphere both at the expo and at the race, so would definitely love to get back there again some day. True to form the combination of the theme tune and inspiring stories had me in tears and keen to get back to running again. There’s just something about the London marathon that makes people lace up and get out there!

When the TV coverage finished I realised that I really should move so walked into town for a coffee and to do a little work for the blog.

IMG_1529Thanks to the time out I’m now itching to get running and target my next challenge. My recovery strategy is one week completely off, one week of light cross training then a week where I re-introduce some easy running so long as there are no issues such as injury or tight muscles picked up in the marathon. Right now my legs feel good and I’m looking forward to a couple of easy runs in the week ahead. I know to expect a slower pace, but I also know that I’ll soon feel like I have my own legs under me again.

How long do you take off running after a marathon or goal race?
Are you training for anything in particular right now?

So You Want To Start Running…?

Perhaps you watched the Boston or London marathons on TV this week. Perhaps you have friends who have been encouraging you to join them for a run. Perhaps your children enjoy Junior parkrun and you’d like to set them a good example. Whatever your reason, at this time of year there are often many people who make the decision to start running.

For me, it was the spring of 2005 and the loss of my grandmother to cancer. I wanted to do something to make a difference for others, and having never run or done anything sporty before in my life, signing up to a charity 5k seemed like a great challenge.

The problem was, I knew nothing about running and had no idea how to get started. I was lucky that I had a PE teacher friend to help me, but not everyone is so fortunate. So if you’re feeling inspired to begin your running journey, today I’m sharing my tips to help make it a bit easier.

NB Remember I’m not a running coach. These tips are simply based on my own experiences and things I wish I’d known when I started.

  • Get fitted for some proper running shoes. Running shoes should be bigger than your usual shoe size to avoid pinching and blisters. It can be confusing seeing rows and rows of different brands and shoe types, but the most important thing is that they feel comfortable. You shouldn’t feel like they need to be “broken in”. If the shoe doesn’t feel good when you try it on, then it’s not the one for you (even if it is a bargain!). Ideally you should be able to try them on before you buy and have a run either in/outside the shop or on a treadmill. Running in the wrong shoes is definitely a mistake I made and it took me a long time to backtrack and find a shoe that suited me.

  • Ladies, your other essential pieces of kit is a sports bra. This is vital no matter what size you are as there are no muscles in this area, only very delicate ligaments which stretch easily through exercise. A good supportive sports bra will keep things in check and help prevent pain when exercising. Again, there are lots of different brands and styles so try a few on to see what feels most comfortable for your size and shape. Just make sure it’s a sports bra designed for high impact activity to give you the best support.

 

  • There’s no need to kit yourself out in expensive clothing right from the start. The most important thing is that you wear something you feel comfortable in. I know I’ve changed how I dress to run over the years as my confidence has grown and if running becomes part of your life then buying some new kit could be something to look forward to. Wicking fabrics are great at moving moisture away from your skin and if you do want some new gear then there are plenty of budget buys available. Check out High Street retailers and discount supermarket chains.

  • If you don’t want to go it alone then find a friend to run with you or consider looking out for a beginners’ group to join. There are plenty of friendly groups running programmes to take you from zero to 5k in a few weeks and many people have success with smartphone apps doing the same thing. Here in Scotland a JogScotland group might be useful. I did almost all of my early running by myself, but it would have been nice to have company. Even just having a friend alongside you to chat can make it much more manageable and can be a good way to have a good old catch up.

 

  • Keep it simple. If you sprint off then you’ll be out of breath in no time. I DEFINITELY made this mistake and it’s a common one when often our only experience of running is sprints in PE at school, or we’re used to high intensity classes and are chasing that same feeling. Instead, focus on how you feel. You should be able to hold a conversation and speak in sentences rather than gasped words. At this stage, time and distance aren’t important. Lay the foundations and get comfortable with your running first.

 

  • It’s ok to be “slow”. Speed is all relative. A new runner might look at my paces and think I’m fast, but my average pace is naught but a warmup for an elite athlete! Even if you feel like you’re moving only slightly faster than a walk, you’re still on your way. Find your rhythm and stick with it. As you get fitter, your pace will naturally quicken with the same effort level. Run your own run and forget about what anyone else is doing.

 

  • Be consistent. Unsurprisingly, going for a run then leaving it for weeks before you try again won’t lead to much improvement. Put your runs in your diary as you would any other commitment and stick to it. I run 3 times per week and 3-4 runs per week is about average. A good pattern might be to run every other day, being sure to leave rest days in between to allow your body to recover and get stronger. If anything feels sore, back off and consider seeking advice from a physio.

 

  • Set yourself targets. I started running in a local park and was using run-walk intervals. I used to aim to increase the length of my run intervals and decrease the walk breaks each time, until eventually I reached the huge milestone of one lap of the park (about 1.5 miles). I was so thrilled you’d have thought I’d run a marathon! I suggest targets like the next lamppost, a certain amount of time, a lap of the park, and so on. Ultimately you might aim to complete your local parkrun – a great place for a beginner to find like-minded people and a supportive, welcoming community.

  • Avoid getting bogged down in detail. You don’t need to be in head-to-toe lycra or wearing a massively expensive running watch. There’s plenty of time for that in the future if you want it. All you need is that pair of running shoes and some comfortable clothes. If you must know your time/distance/pace then there are plenty of free smartphone apps available.

 

  • Remember it’s supposed to be fun! Exercise isn’t a way of punishing yourself for something, it’s an expression of what our bodies can do. Take your time, run your run and enjoy being out in the fresh air improving your fitness. Running benefits not only your physical health but your mental health too. It clears your head and helps sharpen your mind. If you’re not enjoying your run then the chances are you’re running too fast. Ease off the pace, stand tall and repeat a positive message like  “I CAN do this”.

If you are at the beginning of your running journey, welcome. I hope you find everything you want on the roads and trails. Do stop by and keep me up to date with your progress.

What is your reason to run?
Any other tips for beginners or questions to ask?

Friday Finds – 21st April

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

At this time year there are always loads of running-related articles around: from coverage of the Boston and London marathons (as well as the countless other spring marathons taking place around the world) to advice on how to get started/run your first race/get faster that come hand in hand with the improving weather. As a result, there are plenty of articles and stories for me to share with you today, covering a wide range of topics…

I’m going to begin with some positive news surrounding parkrun. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you may remember my outrage when Little Stoke parkrun closed after the parish council wanted to charge for the use of the park every week, a move which flew in the face of parkrun’s message of being free forever. But last weekend it emerged that the government is to consult on proposed legislation which would ban councils in England from charging volunteer communities (such as parkrun, a not-for-profit organisation) offering free weekly events in public parks. Parkrun is a fantastic community doing great things to motivate more and more people to exercise regularly, so I for one will be pleased to see such legislation put in place.

For those who enjoy cycling (something I really should do more often as I always love it when I do) then the results of a University of Glasgow study published this week provide some good news. The five year study suggests that those who cycle to work cut their risk of death from causes such as cancer and heart disease by over 40%. Great news for those with an active commute, but as ever the downside to this is that the infrastructure for cyclists in this country needs to be improved in order to tempt more people away from 4 wheels and on to 2!

Also published this week were the results of an interesting study into how “contagious” our exercise habits are. Factoring in our propensity to befriend those who are like us, the study looked instead at a network of worldwide participants and analysed a wealth of data to show that, when it comes to running, friends do influence each other. This seemed particularly pronounced when there was a degree of competitiveness involved, and gender differences were noted too. The article mentions that the researchers now plan to look at how this applies to other forms of exercise, and I think it would be really interesting to compare the results.

Something I’m becoming more interested in is the mental side of training and how a strong mind can help improve performance. Part of my preparation for a race, particularly a marathon, is visualising how I want to finish and using long runs to develop strategies to overcome negative thinking. This next article explains a little more about why building mental strength is important, and how we might begin to do that.

And finally, you may remember back in November I included an article about Harry Potter yoga…well now there’s some video! I think my favourite thing about the whole concept is the “Downward Dumbledore” and now I really want to have a go at this. Any takers?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

7 For 2017 – Quarterly Review

At the start of this year I set my 7 goals for 2017 and at the end of March we were already one quarter of the way through 2017! But am I a quarter of the way towards achieving my goals? Today I want to check in with them and see what progress I’ve made.

1. Set some new race PBs
I’ve only raced twice so far in 2017 and achieved a PB at one of those races (the Inverness Half Marathon) so I guess that’s a 50% record. My main target when it came to this goal was a new marathon PB, but the hot conditions in Paris put paid to that one. Watch this space for my future plans as this is one goal I’m not ready to let go of yet!
My second target was to finally better my 2012 half marathon PB which I achieved in Inverness. I wanted to get a bit closer to 1:52:XX and with !:53:03 I came pretty close over a hilly course, so that’s definitely a big tick!
Finally I thought I might have a go at breaking 50 minutes for 10k. That one is more of a summer/autumn goal when I tend to enter more 10k races so that will be on the backburner for now.
Progress: 1/3 achieved

IMG_72602. Run my 100th parkrun
To achieve this I simply need to be consistent in participating in parkrun every Saturday. So far, this has happened. I missed one parkrun while I was in Paris (I did the Breakfast Run instead) and am currently taking a couple of weeks off to recover post-marathon so am missing a further two, but with 73 parkruns under my belt now I still have a little leeway there to achieve 100 by the end of the year so long as I can continue to be healthy and injury-free. Fingers crossed!
Progress: On Track 

IMG_72953. Maintain my Step Goal Streak
At the end of 2016 I had a step goal streak on my activity tracker of 6 months straight, so my goal for 2017 was to take that initially to 12 months, but to ideally take at least 10,000 steps per day for the full year. As I write this I’m on day 292 so am closing in on the milestone of 300. Getting my steps has become habit for me now and I incorporate extra walks into my day which really make me feel better, so this one is currently looking good.
Progress: On Track

4. Read at least 30 books
I have this one set as a challenge in Goodreads so I can keep a close eye on how I’m getting on. In 2016 I managed 27 books (but one of them, rather ambitiously, was War and Peace!) so 30 should be do-able when I consider I’m likely to read several books during my relaxing summer holiday. At the moment I’ve read 8, which Goodreads tells me is 27% of my total and puts me comfortably ahead of the quarter-way mark.
Progress: On Track

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
This was one I knew I had to really work on as I’m a natural night owl but have to rise quite early in the morning. During marathon training I got better and better at getting to bed early, and I’m trying to be a bit more conscious of going to bed when I feel tired rather than sitting downstairs longer for no good reason. On Saturdays I’ve become used to an afternoon nap, and I even had a short nap after one of my long runs as I felt too weary to eat! What I learned in this last marathon training cycle is to prioritise rest and early nights much sooner in the process. For the first month or so I was quite busy but since my runs were still fairly short, I felt ok. When the accumulated training load started to take effect, I really noticed the difference in how tired I felt. Next time I’ll make sure I’m well-rested from the start.
Progress: Much improved 

6. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
Perhaps the one I’ve done least about. I have continued with my two yoga classes per week and not only have I noticed the difference in my flexibility and strength from this, but my Ashtanga teacher commented that she could see the difference in the way my body moves. Both of these are really positive for my running. Unfortunately I’ve not done quite as much outside of these classes as I would like. I’m still to work through my Hit Reset book from Jasyoga, but I have incorporated one or two things from the associated videos into my post-run routine, most notably lying with my legs up the wall for 10-15 minutes which I am convinced is making a difference to my recovery. I also include some mobility work in this routine and my gym routine, however I’d still like to find a place for more frequent yoga practice in my day to day life. Perhaps now my marathon training cycle is complete I can turn my attention to this one.
Progress: Working on it!

IMG_13287. Blog more consistently
To develop from my 2016 postaweek commitment, in 2017 my aim was to write at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, this has gone well. Friday Finds has actually gone out on time every week and I have published a Week in Review every Monday. Many weeks have seen other posts go out too, so to date I’ve met my goal on this one and still have plenty of things up my sleeve which I’d love to write about. I have gained some new followers along the way (hello to you all!) and since I’m fond of statistics, it will be interesting to look at my stats at the end of the year and see how they compare to 2016.
Progress: On Track 

IMG_1461When I sat down to write this post I wasn’t actually sure I’d made much progress towards my goals at all, but writing it all down has given me a great opportunity to reflect and realise that I have. Several of my goals require long-term commitment, and that commitment is there. I’ll check in with them again in the summer to see how things are going.

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
Any book recommendations or topics you would like me to cover in a post?

Week in Review – The Importance of Recovery

Look around any social media running group in the days after a marathon and you’ll find loads of people asking questions about when they should run again. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that. Just like training plans, recovery plans should be tailored to suit the individual: some people will be good to go after a few days, others respond better to at least a couple of weeks. Notice I said recovery plan. The thing about most training plans is that they stop on race day, but having a plan in place to recover properly and return to running when your body is ready is just as important, if not more so when thinking about future races. Those people asking the questions have no doubt followed some kind of training plan to get ready for their race, but not planned their recovery and are left feeling lost. I’ve decided to continue my week in review posts while I’m in my recovery phase to share what works for me. As with previous weeks I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

In the first couple of days after a marathon there’s no way I would want to go for a run as I’m still sore and tired, but by the end of the week I’m usually feeling a lot better and it would be easy at this stage to get carried away and get straight back to training. I’ve learned the hard way that this doesn’t work for me: while my legs may feel better, my CV system is still recovering and the stress of running increases the chance of picking up an injury. A marathon takes weeks, or even months, of preparation and the body needs a chance to recover properly afterwards. Over my last two or three marathon training cycles I’ve found a recovery strategy that works for me, and in the first week post-race my activity is limited to walking and yoga (with plenty of time spent with my feet up and enjoying some treats!). Here’s how my first recovery week looked:

Monday – walking in Paris then travel home
Tuesday – walk
Wednesday – walk
Thursday – walk + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – walk
Saturday – parkrun volunteer + walk
Sunday – walk

Spot the pattern? 😉

I awoke on Monday feeling really not too bad. My legs were weary of course, but nothing felt particularly problematic other than the huge blister I had picked up on my right foot! Once I had this dressed, my walking wasn’t too bad. Ok so stairs felt a bit tricky, but they were still do-able and the more I moved around the better I felt.

After breakfast we finished packing and set off towards the Champs Élysées where we took some photos and had a walk down to the Adidas store for a browse before heading for our favourite cafe.

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Sadly the next thing we had to do was get the train to the airport for our flight home. As usual, the departure lounge was filled with a mixture of slightly sore runners and families who had clearly been to Disneyland Paris. We had a snack (again!), chatted to some other runners we know then got on our flight. Then it was home via the Chinese takeaway for a quick dinner before heading to bed.

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On Tuesday morning I had an appointment with my hairdresser so the easiest thing to do seemed to be to walk there and back. That served the dual purpose of keeping me moving and making sure I still got my 10,000 steps for the day since I have the goal of maintaining my step goal streak this year!

Wednesday was similar. I had an appointment in town so opted to walk there since it was quite a nice day. I quite like ditching the car during school holidays and getting around on foot as much as possible. Steve met me after my appointment for a lunch date as he had bought an Itison voucher for a restaurant we hadn’t been to in a long time – 2 courses and a glass of wine for a good price. I had a yummy Parma pizza followed by a crêpe with Nutella and strawberry. I can confirm it was delicious and made me feel a little bit like I was still in Paris!

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The remainder of Wednesday was fairly leisurely, but rounded off with a Skype call to be interviewed for the Tough Girl Daily podcast. It was really nice chatting to Sarah but I was just so relieved that the technology worked as we had originally scheduled the call for Tuesday but had some issues. I do love technology, but it can be a real pain when it doesn’t work!

Thursday was another beautiful day, so after a fairly relaxed morning I headed out for a walk in the afternoon. Despite living in a fairly residential part of town, there are still a number of paths and trails which are great for running and walking and I have enjoyed exploring these since we moved into our house last year. On this occasion I spotted a path I hadn’t explored before so, not being in any rush, I followed it through some trees along by a stream until it emerged into a housing development. The rest of my walk was on familiar routes, but it was nice to add something new into the mix.

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In the evening I had my Ashtanga yoga class which I was looking forward to as I knew I would feel great after a good stretch. I did notice my body a little tight at first, but by the end of the class my mobility felt almost back to normal which was a good sign. I opted to walk to yoga then met Steve afterwards as our friend Linda had promised us a takeaway and beer on the house when we got back from Paris (she has one of the longest established Chinese restaurants in the area – it’s been in the same family for three generations). This gave us a chance to try out our new novelty chopsticks which I bought at Pylones in the Carrousel du Louvre. They’ll stick an Eiffel Tower on anything these days (and the chances are I’ll buy it lol!).

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On Friday morning I had one last errand – to get my front tyres changed on my car (oh the glamour!). I dropped the car off at the garage then walked into town whilst listening to the Tough Girl Daily podcast episode which had come out that morning and featured my interview (I wanted to listen to it before I got carried away and shared it with the world, just in case!). You can find out more and listen here.

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I met Steve for a coffee then ran a few errands in town before going back for my car. I then enjoyed a leisurely afternoon before we headed out to eat. This week we were treating my parents to a meal at our usual Friday night haunt as a thank you for looking after my cat while we were away. Ordinarily I simply bring them back a gift (which I still did) but since the cat’s needs were a little more complex this time with some medications she’s been on, I wanted to make sure we showed our appreciation.

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I know I’ve mentioned my cat’s health a few times recently as for a time she wasn’t well at all due to some side effects of a chronic health condition she has developed. To be honest, I was preparing myself for the end, but thanks to some new medication, she’s doing brilliantly. She was a transformed cat when I got back from Paris which is great news! Lots of you have asked after her in your comments, so thank you.

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My standard blogging setup!

On Saturday I was on the roster to volunteer at parkrun. Putting my name down in advance ensures I don’t get carried away and decide to run, which I think could have happened otherwise since I was feeling good from the rest, yoga and walks. I was a barcode scanner which is one of my favourite jobs and it was a lovely morning.

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After parkrun Steve and I headed off to meet his brother for a coffee. Steve does this every Saturday but since I’m usually at yoga I miss out. No yoga during the school holidays meant I could invite myself along for a cup of tea and a bacon croissant. Yum!

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Checking social media over my tea, I found a few people had tagged me in a post from the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. Turned out one of the pictures of me from the weekend in 2015 when I ran the 5k and 10k on Saturday followed by the half marathon and final relay leg on Sunday had been used in their Easter weekend post. Seeing that photo brought back great memories of that weekend and reminded me of all the things I love about running. Up until then I had no desire to run just yet, but after seeing that picture I could feel my mind starting to turn its attention to getting back out there again soon. That’s why recovery time is so important – it’s not just about making sure your body is ready to run again, but that your mind is too. The mental aspect of the sport is often much more important than the physical.

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Sunday marked the final chapter of our first post-marathon week. Steve went for a run since he has an event much sooner than me. While he got showered and changed I walked into town and he drove down to meet me when he was ready. The reason for this was our traditional “one week on” celebration of a marathon – breakfast out! We headed to our favourite cafe for a cooked breakfast then went for our usual Sunday coffee before heading home – me on foot to ensure I got my 10,000 steps!

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Yes, we ate it all. No, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty!

For me, this was a great recovery week – I kept moving, I stretched my body and I enjoyed some treats as well as spending time with family. During marathon training it’s easy to deny yourself treats or neglect friends/family. The post-marathon recovery period is a great time to address this. Your body isn’t going to lose a huge amount of fitness, in fact it will thank you for the time off when you return to running. When the time is right, that running will feel enjoyable rather than the chore it could be if you try to run too soon. I’m not claiming to be an expert in anything more than my own body, but if you’re struggling to work out what to do in the days after a marathon then perhaps my approach will help in some way. Whatever you do, take at least a few days off and be kind to yourself.

In my second recovery week I’ll return to work which will reinstate some routine and I’ll increase my “training” to include some light cross training (swimming and cycling at a low intensity) in addition to walking and yoga. Watch out for my post detailing how that goes.

If you’d like to read more about my recovery strategies in previous marathon cycles, then here are some links:

What is your recovery strategy?
What is your favourite post-race treat?

Friday Finds – 14th April

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

I can hardly believe that this time last week I was in Paris getting ready to run the marathon and now I’m back home trying to type this with my cat draped across my arm! What a difference a week makes! Still, it’s the Easter holiday weekend here in the UK, so whatever you’re doing I hope you have fun. Let’s kick it off with a little bit of light reading…

One of the stories I included last week surrounded the Tehran marathon and the disappointing news that female entrants had been told they would not be allowed to run the marathon course. Instead, they were offered the chance to run on an indoor track. I continued to follow this story while I was away last weekend and was thrilled to see many women stand up to this order either by creating their own route or, in a couple of notable cases, running the official route alongside the men anyway. I do love to hear of people standing up for what they believe in, particularly when it comes to equal opportunities for all.

There have been many studies in recent years looking at the connection between exercise and life expectancy. This week, details of a new study emerged which suggested running to be much more powerful than other forms of activity at increasing life expectancy, with an average of 3 years added to a runner’s life. Apparently 1 hour of running can add 7 hours to someone’s life (and not because that run feels like it takes 7 hours lol!). That seems as good as reason as any to lace up and get out there!

For those of us who like to race, water stations can present a bit of a difficulty. Cups can be awkward to drink from on the move (I usually manage to choke!) and while bottles are much easier, they’re not the most environmentally friendly. Step forward the new edible bottle you may have seen shared on social media this week. I watched a video on this product that showed people simply popping this edible bubble of fluid in their mouths, and the creators believe it could be used successfully at races. The article here suggests it will be piloted at the London marathon, so if anyone is running it I’d love to know if they get a chance to try this out.

In a week when science delivered the news of the increased life expectancy in runners and the edible water bubble, perhaps one of its best achievements was in working out just why shoelaces come undone. We’ve all been there, tied them nice and tight then looked down mid-run to see a lace flapping about with every stride. It all comes down to inertial forces it seems, and while some knots might be better than others, sadly no definitive solution has been suggested. Science, get on that one next!

And finally, we’ve all seen those pictures of Strava art and marvelled at the time and planning involved in creating a simple outline or forming a few words, but this week two runners from Cardiff definitely won the prize for the best Strava art ever…a Welsh dragon! The advance planning and 8 hours of running involved certainly reveal their dedication and I’d love to see if runners from the rest of the home nations have a go at something similar. Any takers…?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Paris When it Sizzles Pt3 – Marathon de Paris 2017

If you’ve read my previous posts on my trip to Paris last weekend (if not you can catch up here and here) then you’ll know it was a pretty busy weekend. And if you read my week in review then you’ll also know that marathon day didn’t entirely go to plan. In this post, you’ll learn a bit more about what happened.

IMG_1376Like any marathoner, in the days preceding the race I developed an obsession with checking the weather forecast for Sunday. The pattern went a bit like this:

Day 1 – Sunday = hot
Day 2 – Sunday = hotter
Day 3 – Sunday = hotter still…

And so on. Not the best conditions for this poor Scot who trained through the rains and winds of winter, with temperatures peaking around 12C (low 50s F). Everyone I spoke to over race weekend said the same: It’s going to be hot. Keep hydrated. I’ll probably take it easy…

Take it easy? But I put in weeks and weeks of training to get a sub-4, I wrote about it all over my blog and actually confessed to my goal whenever someone asked. Here it was looking like that goal was drifting away before the race had even begun.

So I reset my goal.

Instead of fighting to hit my paces, I would start out comfortably and just see what happened. If it became obvious that a sub-4 was out of the question, then I would just enter another race and try again. With that settled in my mind, it became much easier to head into race day without massive pressure to perform.

Race day began, of course, with an early alarm call. We knew that the hotel would serve breakfast from 6:30 and wanted to be down there as early as possible to give us plenty of time to finish getting ready before walking over to Avenue Foch, which we had realised we could reach really quickly from where we were.

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As we walked up to drop off our bags, it was already clear that it was going to be a warm day. Normally I would wear a long sleeved top, or at the very least some arm warmers, and feel slightly cool walking to the race, but not this time. This time I was wearing exactly what I would wear to run, with no extras. And I felt perfectly comfortable. Just how warm was it going to get? And when?

Like last year, there was a security check to enter the runners’ area. First our race numbers were checked, then a bag check, but this was fairly quick and we had expected it anyway. We both dropped off our bags, took a couple of photos and headed for the toilet queues before walking the short distance to the Champs Élysées (where there was a second check of race numbers) and the access points for each wave. Since I had hoped for a sub-4 time I was in the 3:45 wave and Steve was in the 3:15, so after one final selfie we parted ways to join the crowds trying to access the start area (this happens every year and my advice is just expect it and go with it – you’ll get in fine as the waves start to move forward).

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Once inside the start area I had a bit of space to take in my surroundings and snap a couple of pictures. I then decided I’d best have one last toilet stop (you know how it is – as soon as you think about nipping to the loo you immediately HAVE to go!) so joined a short queue. Unfortunately as I waited the 4 hour group was walked forward, engulfing the area I was standing in, which meant an inevitable delay to my start time as I would miss my wave heading out. I did manage to squeeze my way to the front of this wave, but in addition to the wave starts, Paris also splits the waves into the left and right hand sides of the road and staggers their starts. This allows volunteers to clear any discarded clothing/bottles/pre-marathon debris from the road. My group was walked forwards to the start line, then the right hand side was set off first and it seemed to take forever. At one point I wondered if all 57,000 entrants were being allowed through in this one group! A few people stared to climb over the barriers into this wave, but it seemed more sensible just to wait it out. The race is chip timed so there is no need to worry. Experience of this event has taught me just to be patient around the start and go with the flow.

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Eventually, we were underway. I had decided to listen to podcasts during the race to give me something to focus on, but didn’t start the first one immediately to give me a chance to monitor my pace and settle in to my rhythm. I waited until after the first mile to press play when I felt that I had adjusted into a suitable pace.

For the first 5k along to the Bastille, everything was ticking along nicely. I was right on my target pace and was managing to run in the shade at the side of the road. This continued until the 5 mile mark when I took my first gel, but by the time I hit 10k and the Bois de Vincennes it was starting to feel bit harder. The course had been narrow at points which had slowed me down, there were some short inclines and all of a sudden the sun was beating down with no real respite.

My second gel at 10 miles gave me a lift, as did the cheer point from one of my favourite groups the Paris Frontrunners, part of an international LGBT running organisation. The gentlemen of the group, in drag, cheering us on and waving pompoms always makes me smile and gives renewed energy for the next part of the course.

But by the time I reached half way I was beginning to flag. I already knew I was off pace for a sub-4, but now a PB was slipping away as well. At first this worried me, not because of my desire for a PB, but because it was feeling hard much sooner than it should. Having spoken to others after the race, I felt much better as everyone described reaching a point (somewhere between 13-18 miles) at which they just thought, “nope,” and switched their attention to simply getting to the end. Thinking about the relative paces of these runners and the times they began the race, I think everyone came up against this at roughly the same time of day, towards the later part of the morning and what is effectively the hottest part of the day. But when you’re mid-race and alone (or as alone as you can be when surrounded by tens of thousands of others having the same struggle!) it’s hard to know that.

What I remember is of having a very strange experience: my legs weren’t sore, nothing was tight or off, it was just getting more and more difficult to get my legs to move. I described it to Steve as being like wading through treacle and he said he felt something similar. Presumably the heat (I think it rose to about 24C/mid 70s F rapidly and there was no shade other than the tunnels along the quai) was sucking all the energy away as our bodies were having to work so much harder to keep us cool. I noted my heart rate was higher than it had been on training runs where I was running quicker and knew that this race was just going to be about completing the distance healthily.

The further I ran, the more I saw people who were struggling – people at the side of the road clearly in a bad way, people on stretchers and the sounds of ambulance sirens. I would imagine most of this was caused by dehydration and was glad I had opted to fill my hydration pack right up with an electrolyte drink. I also picked up water at each aid station to take a sip and pour water down my back. And as for the hoses – what sweet relief! They were icy cold and each run through would elicit an involuntary noise, but it was so worth it!

At mile 18 beyond the Eiffel Tower I took a cup of that delightful pink Isostar drink that I believe to be rocket fuel. I always run well after that, but sadly it doesn’t last all the way to the end!

One thing I did find interesting was that despite the need for walking breaks to cool down and taking my time at aid stations collecting a sugar lump and orange segment, I was constantly surrounded by the same people, always looking at the same running tops. Clearly everyone was having the same battle that day in Paris. And despite my perception of not running well/taking lots of walk breaks, when I watched my race video I was doing something resembling decent running in every single part. It just goes to show how your perception can be skewed by the tough moments!

There was a slight change to the final miles this year, meaning the run through the Bois de Boulogne was a little different. I knew my watch was about 0.2ish of a mile ahead of the mile markers, so just kept trusting the information I was seeing, knowing that the end would finally come. Finally passing the 26 mile sign at the roundabout outside the Bois de Boulogne is the sign that the finish line is near, and that’s where I found my extra spurt to take me to the end – I even made a valiant effort to race Superman, but he got me right at the end!

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Finally crossing the line and stopping my watch, I fully expected the usual wave of emotion and tears that accompany the end of a marathon…but they didn’t come. On reflection, I think my reframing the event as a long training run meant that despite my relief at being able to stop running once and for all, that same rush wasn’t there. I hadn’t achieved what I had set out to do on this occasion, and was simply using this run as a stepping stone towards running an autumn race. The fact that I didn’t wake up feeling like my legs were on backwards was further testament to this: the race felt tough, but I clearly didn’t work all-out otherwise my legs would have felt much worse.

As I moved through the finish area collecting my T-shirt, medal and refreshments (I opted for water, another banana, an apple and enjoyed an orange segment on the move) I noticed lots of people seeking medical attention, more than I think I’ve noticed before, and felt glad once again to have reached the finish line without any ill-effects.

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Reclaimed bag in hand, I went to find Steve who was waiting for me at the agreed spot having had a very similar race experience to me. I got myself sorted out then we joined the queue for some photos. Isostar France had set up a couple of backdrops and were advertising free photos which would be published on their Facebook page. We got a photo together at one backdrop then went to the other for individual photos. We then shuffled off to take photos next to the rather apt “I made it” backdrop before our short walk back to the hotel (and the “Everest” that was the stairs to our room!).

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The first thing I did was lie with my legs up the wall for a good 10-15 minutes which really made me feel better. It was then time for a shower, change and catch up on social media posts before heading out to meet some others for some food. We opted for a nearby pub which we had been to before as we had spotted this encouraging sign the day before:

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We then rounded off our day with a short walk along to the Tocadéro to watch the Eiffel Tower as it was lit up with sparkling lights.

 

This marathon may not have been what I wanted it to be, but I’m not letting it get me down. There are some things you can control on race day – clothing, nutrition, attitude – and some you can’t, weather being one of the most obvious. Could I have pushed to run faster? Maybe, but I would probably not have made it to the end of the race and would be facing a lengthy recovery period before I could run again. By making the decision to ease off and simply complete the race, I know I’m in a strong position to train through the summer and enter an autumn marathon to have another go at breaking that 4 hour mark. A marathon is a strange beast: training can go absolutely perfectly yet anything can happen on the day. Much as I love Paris, this simply wasn’t the time for me to reach my goal. Next time, things might be very different. At the end of the day, with 4:32:07 I still ran a respectable time, even though my perception of it was that I performed badly. That tells me there’s much more in me and a faster time IS possible. Besides, I just had a weekend in Paris. What’s not to like about that?

 

Week in Review – Race Week

And just like that, it was race week! Looking back, it hardly seems like any time at all since I began the year with the New Year Triple, but in reality there are many miles between the 1st of January and the first week of April. Today I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my preparations for race day.

Since it was the second week of my two week taper, things were a little gentler this week, while still maintaining the rhythm of my training. I also had the benefit of being off school for our spring break, so that meant more opportunity to relax at home and feel better rested for the big day. Here’s how my week looked:

Mondayswim rest plus sports massage
Tuesday – bike intervals at the gym then swim
Wednesday – 4 miles easy
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – travel to Paris
Saturday – Breakfast Run
Sunday – marathon!!

As you can see, I made a little tweak at the start of the week by removing my Monday swim. I’ve written a couple of times about my elderly cat (she’s 16 and a half!) who now has an age-related health condition. This can be managed, but she can be prone to infections and other side effects of her condition and she had been unwell over the weekend, indicating a need for a change to her medication. I hadn’t slept well due to listening out for her through the night (I suspect it was a bit like having a sick child!) and had an appointment for her at the vet on Monday afternoon so I decided to stay at home and keep an eye on her instead of going to the pool. The good news is that her new medication has her bouncing back and much more herself again, which has been quite a relief for me. To get a bit of movement in my day I simply walked to my sports massage then shifted my swim to Tuesday.

IMG_1093That swim came after my bike workout. I made this my final hard workout of this training cycle and completed 20 reps of my intervals – the peak number at every stage. It felt a bit different doing them in the morning, but I felt strong and this gave me some confidence in my fitness which was consolidated by a decent swim afterwards. I then enjoyed a short time in the hot tub and sauna before heading home for a restful afternoon. My post-bike selfie also provided some entertainment for people on social media. Clearly I worked hard lol!

IMG_1094On Wednesday my traditional hill reps were replaced by an easy run to keep my legs turning over. Steve suggested about 4 miles and I set off on a loop I quite like, guessing a bit at the distance. It turned out to be 4.75 miles. Oops! Still, it was a nice start to the day and in the afternoon my parents, fresh back from a winter in Florida, visited for a cup of tea and a discussion of the cat’s medical needs since they would be taking care of her over the weekend.

IMG_1096Thursday was a beautiful day. The kind of day that makes you want to go for a run, but by this point my running legs were being rested ahead of the marathon, so after I had done all the things I needed to do to get organised for the weekend (by which I mean making lots of lists. I do love a list!), I decided to take a walk in the sunshine and enjoy poking about some of the nearby paths that I run along while I could take advantage of a more leisurely pace. I’d have loved to stay out longer but had packing to do!

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IMG_1151In the early evening I then headed to the studio for my usual PT session with Steve for some final work on my upper back mobility. Yet again, he couldn’t resist diving into my selfies!

IMG_1159After that, Ashtanga yoga. I REALLY enjoyed the class this week. I felt centred and like I flowed well between postures and in some I felt like my flexibility had improved a little more. I suspect things will feel a bit different next time in my post-marathon body! If I can get anywhere near my toes it will be a miracle lol!

Friday is usually my rest day, but this time it was my travel day. I got up early to make sure I had time to not only get myself ready, but to make sure I had given my furbaby all her assorted medications before leaving so that it would be a little easier for mum later in the day. I had packed everything for my trip the night before, so it was just a case of popping in the last minute items then we were off to the airport. We had expected to bump into Simon, who we had first met under similar circumstances last year, but before that we also bumped into Steve’s friend Fiona who now lives in Paris but had been back in Scotland for a few days and was heading back home to run the marathon as well. The departure gate at the airport is starting to feel like an annual reunion of the Paris marathon runners ha! We chatted a bit while waiting to board which helped to pass the time. Once on board, we discovered that there was an ITV film crew involved in making a documentary about becoming a pilot on board the flight. They were mainly filming in the cockpit but were also getting some shots around the cabin. I’ll now have to watch out for this coming on TV just in case I can spot myself!
IMG_1167The remainder of the weekend will be covered in more detail in separate posts, however I’ll include some highlights here:
Our first port of call in Paris was the Expo to collect our race packs. We ate there at the pasta party, had a look around the exhibits then headed for the hotel to unpack and get some rest (after a quick walk to pick up some bottles of water, during which I “returned the favour” with Steve’s selfie!).

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IMG_7550Saturday we were up bright and early for coffee and croissants before heading over to the Place du Palais Royal for the start of the Breakfast Run which was using a new route this year. I always love this event as it truly has such an international feel and we always find ourselves chatting to complete strangers, bound by the spirit of the marathon, and often stay in touch with many of these people via social media or our blogs afterwards. This year was no exception, and of course I have a photo or a hundred to remember the experience! Afterwards we enjoyed a second breakfast of coffee, pain au chocolat, banana and water while taking in a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower across the Champ de Mars!

IMG_1252 IMG_1268We then meandered back to the hotel to get changed then headed out for some lunch and a few “errands” before opting for an afternoon nap and some chill out time back at the hotel before dinner. Basically it was a day revolving around food and marathon preparations!

IMG_1340On Sunday we were up early to get breakfast as soon as it was available, before getting organised for the short walk to the start/finish area. I had been watching the forecast all week and every time I looked, it was getting warmer. Walking up to drop my bag off before 8am without any need for warm clothing was already an indication that temperatures were going to soar. In the end, that put paid to my plans for a sub-4 time. I’ll write more about this in another post, but I know from speaking to others that practically everyone was much slower than anticipated and had to reset their goals in order to complete the race. It may have been disappointing on the day, but my time of 4:32:07 is actually my second fastest marathon time ever thanks to my oddly chequered history with the distance, and knowing that this was a below par performance gives me hope that I CAN do it under different circumstances. Once I’m recovered, I’ll be thinking about my next marathon and having another go at that elusive goal.

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IMG_1389And that’s it. A valuable reminder that it doesn’t matter how well your training goes, there can still be a spanner in the works come race day. You can only control so many things, and sadly the weather isn’t one of them. By resetting my goal I finished feeling healthy and injury-free so I can pick myself up, dust myself off and live to race another day. That’s way more important than risking my health over a finish time.

Look out for further Paris-related posts later this week with all the details!

Did you run or race in the heat this weekend? How did it go?
Anything you’d like me to write more about in my Paris roundups?

Week in Review – Taper Time!

Wow! It hardly seems like any time at all has passed since I began this cycle of marathon training, yet here I am into my taper and writing my last pre-race week in review! As always, I’m linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL to share my weekly training.

Tapering means a bit of a cut back in mileage, but maintaining the intensity of the workouts. That means feeling fresh and ready to race when you need to. I’ve found in the past that the traditional three week taper leaves me feeling sluggish on race day, so this time I’m trying out a two week taper to see what difference it makes. Based on the pattern of how I’ve felt in longer runs versus cutback weeks throughout this cycle, I’m feeling confident that this is going to work better for me.

So for my first taper week my plan was:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike intervals
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

And I even did all the sessions as planned – nothing missed or swapped around. I think that makes three weeks this year with no changes lol! But I have to say, my week didn’t get off to the best start. I’m not sure if I was tired from my 20 mile run, tired because it was the last week of a veeeeery long term, or something else, but I was an absolute clumsy clot. I was late for work on Monday due to the aftermath of an accident on the road I was on (hopefully everyone involved was ok) then when I set my cup down to go and make a cup of tea, I managed to nudge it off my desk and smash it. I was fond of that cup too 😦 I did survive the rest of the day and headed to the pool for my swim. It probably wasn’t my greatest performance ever as the pool was really busy and there wasn’t much space to really get into a rhythm, but it really helped my recovery. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I wouldn’t have known I had run 20 miles the day before!

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The irony of the calendar that day was not lost on me!

My clumsy behaviour continued into Tuesday when I began my work day by dropping (and smashing) my plastic water cup. On the plus side, this was the last thing I broke during the week – phew! On Tuesday evening I headed to the gym for my bike reps and although I was still feeling tired (I was fairly certain this was work-related by this stage) I still felt strong throughout the workout and was thinking about where I started with these reps towards the end of last year when they were shorter and at lower intensity. I would never have believed I could progress to where I am now had you told me back then. Fitness really is a funny thing as you never really “feel” any different, it’s only when you have a tangible measurement that progress is more apparent.

fullsizeoutput_1ccaWednesday was a return to my hill reps after a two week break. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling overly motivated to go and do them, perhaps because it was in my head that this was the last time before Paris, but I headed out and got it done. My splits were slightly slower than the last time, but I was ok with that given I had missed two sessions of hill reps, had run 20 miles on Sunday and was, like my colleagues, just generally on my knees and crawling towards the school holidays!

IMG_1042I always enjoy my Thursday sessions. First it’s my PT session with Steve where our focus has been on core strength and mobility, particularly my hips and my upper back/shoulders. We repeated some of the work we have been doing in recent weeks, then Steve repeated his “photo bombing” manoeuvre so I couldn’t take a post-workout selfie for laughing!

IMG_1052I then headed to my Ashtanga class which has become a real marker of the end of the week for me. The focus on breathing and working through the postures helps to calm my mind from a busy week so I feel much less stressed afterwards, and the postures themselves have made a huge difference to my overall strength and flexibility since I began last May. Once that class is done, I also know I only have one more day to work, and this week it was the last day before a long-awaited two week break. Bliss!

By the time I finished work on Friday I felt completely done. This is our busiest term with coursework and assessments, which are all really exhausting for the pupils as well, especially those who are coming back to exams. When the bell rang at the end of the day, it was like someone pulled the plug out on my energy as well. I had to keep moving until I got to my car as I knew if I stopped it was going to be a battle to get going again. Once home, I enjoyed the chance to relax before dinner, and this week chose a steak in celebration of a tough term completed.

IMG_1057Since Saturday was the first Saturday of the month, I was a pacer at parkrun and had 26 minutes again. Following a course inspection the day before, it had been decided to stick to the alternate route as the main route was still pretty waterlogged and I saw this as an opportunity to really nail my pacing since it would be flat tarmac the whole way around. All I had to do was lock into the right pace and stick to it. I have tried resetting my watch to kilometres in order to get more frequent updates on my splits, but this time opted to stick to miles since that is how I usually have it. A quick check of a pace calculator revealed that to run a 26 minute 5k I would need to run 8:22 per mile and I’m pleased to report that I absolutely nailed it – 8:21, 8:20, 8:23 and the final bit at 8:24 for a finish time on my Garmin of 26:01 (I always run through the finish line before stopping my watch so there’s usually a second or two added to my actual time). I was so pleased to have got it right that I was actually a bit disappointed when my official time came in as 25:53. It’s not often a runner is disappointed by a time being too fast haha! Still, I know I got it right and the runners using me as a pace guide should theoretically have a good time against their names, so job done.

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Wearing my 2014 Paris marathon finishers’ top in the hopes it would be lucky!

IMG_1076Parkrun was followed by the last Hatha yoga class of the term and I really enjoyed relaxing into the class (and the holidays) and stretching out my body. I could feel all the stresses of the term melting away. However I was feeling a little “off” (and had been since the end of school on Friday) so decided on a fairly long nap on Saturday afternoon, after which I felt back to normal so I was clearly in need of some sleep!

Sunday was my last long run before heading to Paris and I had “just” 12 miles on the schedule. It was a beautiful morning so I was able to wear shorts and my souvenir Tshirt I got in Paris last year. I followed the same route as my previous 12 mile runs on this cycle and just ran to feel – no deliberate slowing, no aiming for marathon pace, just running comfortably and enjoying the day. In the end my average pace wasn’t too far outside goal marathon pace so I’m feeling optimistic that my endurance and speed work can come together next Sunday to propel me to a good time. My fingers are firmly crossed for a PB and my ultimate goal is sub-4 hours. I’ll definitely be giving it my best shot!

IMG_1078 IMG_1079 IMG_1080So that’s it. The hay is in the barn (so to speak) and my focus now is on making sure I’m well rested and well hydrated. I’ll use the week to keep some training ticking over, but have plans for an afternoon nap each day, a bit of blogging and turning my attention to organising my kit ready to pack for our flight on Friday. If you want to keep up with what I’m up to in Paris, remember you can follow me on Facebook and I’ll be writing all about it once I’m home.

Keep your fingers crossed!

If you have a goal race soon, how are you feeling about it?
How do you prepare in the days before a goal event?

Week in Review – The Big One!

I can’t believe this training cycle is nearly over! It began in the depths of winter and now the clocks have actually going forward for British “Summer” Time! I’m linking up as usual with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL as I review my peak training week.

There were one or two minor changes this week thanks to life getting in the way, but I still feel I had a solid week of training. This was the plan:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps short run
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – long run

I stayed a bit later at work on Monday which meant I got to the pool a bit later. It was busy as there was an aqua fitness class on in part of the pool and a couple of others using the swim lane. I was keen to get home so probably swam a bit quicker than usual. Unfortunately this resulted in a bit less finesse in my form due to my rushing so I wasn’t overly satisfied with that, but I still felt it was a good workout.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym for my bike reps. Having missed this session during my recovery period last week, I wasn’t sure how I would feel and asked Steve if I should repeat the previous number of reps or move on. In the end, we decided I should aim to move on, but if I got to the number of reps I had completed a couple of weeks before and felt I couldn’t manage another two, then I could stop. As it turned out, I was able to complete all the reps I should and felt strong in the workout. I then enjoyed the chance to relax in the hot tub and sauna before heading home.

Wednesday threw a bit of a spanner in the works. I was due to resume my hill reps, however my elderly cat (who has a health condition) had been unwell and when I got home I wasn’t happy with how she was doing and felt the need to seek advice from the vet. The upshot was a bonus trip to the surgery for me to collect some new medication, followed by a couple of other errands while I was out. By the time I had done all that and tended to the cat, I felt mentally drained. It was also around 7pm and I was hungry. Getting changed and heading out to complete a set of hill reps just didn’t appeal. I sent Steve a message and he suggested just going for a straightforward run to clear my head, then if I felt like doing the reps once I was out, to do them. I really wasn’t fancying the hill reps, but knew the run would make me feel better so stuck some kit on and got out the door. I ran a loop of a little under 3 miles, maintained a reasonably hard pace and zoned out with a podcast. By the time I returned I felt much better and the cat was doing much better too. Phew!

Things got back on track on Thursday with my PT session. I had slept a bit funny and tweaked my upper back/neck so we focused again on upper back and shoulder mobility, which helped a great deal. By the time I had completed my Ashtanga yoga class, it was feeling so much better and my head felt much clearer too.

My Friday rest day was incredibly welcome. This term has been really busy with coursework to mark and we’re just one week away from our spring break now. I was home reasonably sharp after a quick errand, wrote my Friday Finds post then decided I felt quite sleepy so thought I would have a quick nap before Steve got home. That nap ended up being around 45 minutes as he finished work a bit later than we had expected. I still felt a bit “spaced out” as we headed out to eat, but was soon revived by my now traditional curry and beer. Once home, we watched a little TV (I wanted to see the Love Actually sequel and Carpool Karaoke with Take That on the Comic Relief TV coverage) before heading to bed.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early. By which I mean it was a nice, bright day and the cat made sure I appreciated it good and early as she wanted fed! With her needs taken care of, I had a bit of time to myself before parkrun. It was another week on the alternate route as the weather hasn’t improved enough to firm up the grass section and I was feeling pretty good. My legs were fresh and wanted to run fast, but I was consciously reigning it in as I knew I had 20 miles on the schedule the following day! I still sneaked it in under 24 minutes with a 23:53 (and rather surprising second mile of 7:37!).

IMG_1009Sadly there was no Hatha yoga this week as my teacher had a wedding to attend, so instead I headed home to shower before meeting Steve for the weekly food shop. Since the weather was so nice I opted to walk into town and enjoy the sunshine. Errands done, I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon to ensure I was well rested ahead of my long run. This included some quality time with the cat (and yes, there was another pizza-related “incident”!).

IMG_1018Sunday also began with an early wake up call from the cat, but at least with the clocks going forward it could be considered to be at a more civilised hour! I had decided not to get worked up about the loss of an hour overnight and instead focus on getting enough sleep and just dealing with the fact that I would be about an hour behind schedule all day. Since it was a nice day it meant I was finally able to hit the country roads for my long run. I don’t like to use these routes through the winter as it can be pretty lonely and miserable, whereas on a sunny spring day I usually see lots of other runners and cyclists as well as all the newborn lambs in the fields!

IMG_1026I’ve been trying to overdress a bit on my Sunday runs in order to get some acclimatisation since the chances are it will be warm in Paris in a couple of weeks. If it turns out to be a cool day then that’s a bonus for this pale Scottish runner! This week was probably about as warm as I’m going to get before race day so I opted for similar kit to what I plan to wear in Paris, but with an extra lightweight top which I could remove if I felt the need.

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My route was much hillier than the marathon profile (and hillier than all my previous training routes!), so my overall pace was not quite as quick as I would like, however I know that I was hitting goal pace on the flatter sections, even towards the end of the run, whilst slowing right down on the hills in order to give me a better chance of recovering over the next few days. To be honest, simply getting this far in my training plan fills me with joy after the way things have gone over the last few years, and hitting that peak mileage gives me the confidence that I’m as ready as I will ever be for this race. Will I get my PB? That’s in the lap of the running gods, but I’m going to give it my best shot!

IMG_1034And now, the taper. I’m experimenting with a two week taper rather than the traditional three as I’ve found that leaves me feeling a bit sluggish and heavy-legged for race day. If a training schedule is tailored to an individual and a recovery plan is different for every runner, then surely the nature of the taper is too? I guess we’ll soon find out…!

What will be the peak mileage in your training plan?
Do you use a three week taper or have you tried something else?